Found what I'd been looking for. Left brain, right brain and middle brain..

Just a few days ago, I ran across two things I'd been looking for over the course of a year. Ever since I founded the SDWC, I'd been looking for two things - my book of old election statistics, and my old polling information.

I put the book of statistics together when I first started working as the Legislative Coordinator for the South Dakota GOP in 1988. I couldn't find how many votes there were in a county back a few years, so I went up and talked with Darleen Gage at the Secretary of State's office. And she let me have a copy of all the election returns back as far as she had paper copies - all the way back to 1962.

Since the Secretary of State started their website, their records only go-back on-line through 1972, so the extra ten years helps me put a little bit more of a historical perspective on things.

For instance, 2002 wasn't the only time the Republican Senate candidate was beaten out by a few hundred votes. 1962 saw George McGovern beating Joe Bottum by 597 votes. And 361 of those votes were in the unorganized counties of Shannon, Todd and Washabaugh. Funny how much things stay the same. Except for Washabaugh County.

The other big find was my polling book. Information I've collected on polls I've seen, how-to's I've collected, polls I'd personally conducted, data management, telephone sampling, etc. I even note that back in 1990, I had added a question to test if an issue could cause support for Tim Johnson to wane. Those people who were supporting Tim were asked:
If you knew that in 1987, Tim Johnson voted for legislation which caused the Savings and Loan bailout to balloon from $15 billion to over $300 billion, would that make you more or less likely to vote for Tim Johnson and to what degree."
I look back on it now and think; "Boy, was that issue a tough one for voters to understand." And also "Boy, was that polling question tough to understand." The completed sheet I'm looking at indicated that this poll-ee indicated it had "no effect." Apparently so.

I also see from these old polling sheets, I was testing for recognition of the REDI fund for Governor Mickelson on several of the polls, support for the income tax, abortion and a few other issues. If there's one thing I wished I had kept with my polling information, it would be the results.

Which kind of brings up a point in campaigns. It's repeated to the point of being a cliche', but the mother's milk of politics is money. But I'd add that the mind of a campaign is information. Data. Campaign information tells you how to spend your money, where to campaign, what issues you should be talking about, whether you should worry about opponent "A" and not opponent "B", and any number of things.

But as important as it is, data is cold and clinical. In addition to gathering information, campaigns have to also be warm and feeling - they have to connect with the voter.

We might say that this dichotomy in political campaigns is both art and science. The science is in gathering and interpreting empirical data to prove or disprove hypotheses, and to allow you to draw conclusions. The artistic aspect comes in as you tool a message to conform to to the data collected - as interpreted through your candidate.

You can determine through polling data (your scientific data) that people think education is the number one issue. But you can't put that on a postcard and have voters associate that with your candidate. (Education important. Vote for Bill.) What you need to do is to go into a creative artistic mode an interpret that information from "education important" into "Our schoolchildren need to have the ability to compete on a world stage. And Bill will support measures to give them that opportunity."

Some people would call it left-brained versus right-brained. From one website, a clarification for those not familiar with the terminology:
Left-brain scholastic subjects focus on logical thinking, analysis, and accuracy. Right-brained subjects, on the other hand, focus on aesthetics, feeling, and creativity.
I'm not sure where I sit in that spectrum. At times, I can be a number cruncher hooked in on collecting polling data, but on the other hand, I can think up and build goofy stuff like how to stand a 4x8 sign in the back of a pickup with 2 2x4's and wire. In a 2002 campaign, just by eyeballing it, I also built a holder for 4x8's for the back of a pickup, allowing completed signs to be stacked at least 30 deep (or 250 sheets deep for coroplast). Usually the limits were as many as the truck's suspension would allow. And I used the heck out of that thing.

But the point to make to tie this all together, is that it's good to have people of all types working on a campaign. You need the number crunchers and the artistic types. You need each to tell you what you need to be doing. Consider one input, and the other output. The data comes into the campaign, and the message comes out. From your right-brain to your left.

Just a few thoughts from my middle brain.


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